Friday afternoon reading

Before we all take off for the long weekend, I thought I’d pass along an interesting article from Time Magazine titled
The Stimulus Turns Two: How Obama Quietly Changed Washington. Author Michael Grunwald examines how competitive grants in the Federal Stimulus have reformed the way important investments are made. Here is an excerpt from Grunwald’s discussion of transportation funding:

It’s hard to overstate how radical this [competitive] approach is, especially in the world of transportation. Aside from earmarks, almost all transportation funding is formula-based, where every state is entitled to a slice, and any project is acceptable as long as it fits into a neat silo (highway, airport, etc.) and provides all the necessary paperwork (traffic studies, minority hiring plans, etc.). It’s nobody’s job to ask whether the project actually makes any sense or serves any national purpose. But the stimulus included $1.5 billion in competitive grants for major projects that wouldn’t necessarily fit into a neat stovepipe but would provide significant economic and environmental benefits, from public-private partnerships to expand freight-rail capacity in seven states to new streetcars in Tucson, Ariz., Dallas and New Orleans to a green-themed revitalization of a tough Kansas City neighborhood.

It will be interesting to see if this new approach is embraced by Congress in its next multi-year transportation funding bill. Until then, have a great President’s weekend everyone.

Categories: Transportation News